The 2015 Nissan Rogue is a small sport utility vehicle (SSUV) with an low-centered attitude, so we took it to some altitude to see how well it works on some curvy roads out towards Rainier.

DSC00180Starting at $23,040 (the SV AWD package is $28,315, as driven), the Rogue is the SUV for people who are more into driving cars.

With the same XTronic continuously variable (automatic) transmission as the Maxima, the Rogue kept the RPMs in the power band, but it was still weird to not have defined shifting such as with a normal transmission. Weird, but not bad; it gave me plenty of enjoyment on the curvy roads and in the straights.

And the engine it’s connected to is quite good. The 2.5L DOHC engine produces 170-hp and 175-lbft of torque, making it quick on the get-up-and-go, and the all wheel drive ensures you’ll keep it on the road.

DSC00185We decided to head out to visit Paradise’s views of Mount Rainier, at the Rainier National Park. Yes, that commanding volcanic giant, ever present in the minds and views of Seattleites (unless it’s cloudy, then just their minds).

Around 2 p.m., we left for the park, enjoying the languid and relaxing roads through the Nisqually Valley lined with motels, trees and the occasional paddock of horses. On a Sunday, most of the traffic was be heading the other direction; making our roads clear and fun.

DSC00123The looming giant getting ever closer and closer.

Most of the hot day we sent with the windows down, the AC on and our heated keeping our backs relaxed. (Don’t knock it; it was great.) The driver’s seat had six-way adjustable seats while the passenger’s is four-way manual; keeping your spouse lean with the A-package (athletic).

DSC00292As we neared the park, the roads got twistier and the Rogue settled into the corners with a bit of umph to the outside bits, eagerly chewing up the curvy miles. Given that most of the road to Paradise was under repavement, I was extremely pleased with how soft the ride was going up and how well the interior kept me comfortable.

When our Pandora reception left us, we listened to the wind in the trees and the birds chirping overhead. It was paradise on Paradise Road, all the way up to Paradise (so you can paradise in Paradise).

Once inside the park (FYI it costs $15 for a pass that lasts 7 days), the forest just got more amazing. The trees were larger, the forest denser, and the majesty more grand.

DSC00141We stopped several times to just get out of the Rogue and immerse ourselves in our surroundings. We walked along dried river beds and listening to bugs that sounded more like helicopters crash landing than bugs.

Took the obligatory touristy landscape photographs of the mountain, then hopping back into the car for more RPM-borne fun. The 175-hp giving driver and passenger a smile all the way up.

The ride height and low center of gravity for this SSUV proved to be quite grin-worthy on the many hairpin turns that litter the road on the way up to Paradise.

The Nissan wasn’t just good in the corners, it was good in MPGs, too; with 28 combined (26 in the city and 33 on the highway). Even with some foot down fun, I managed to get 29 up and down the mountain.

When we reached the top, I was sad (though looking forward to the way down) because the up and twisties were at an end. We made sandwiches from the back hatch, tailgating our meal, and then took a tour around Paradise by foot.

DSC00194We saw people taking selfies of 20-person families from a six-foot stick while a stone’s throw from deer feeding on grass, we saw marmots running along river beds then underneath wooden bridges and gazed on waterfalls cascading past a viewpoint sliding off the cliff(scary!!).

We saw life outside the city – way outside the city – and it was glorious.

DSC00260As the sun set behind the foothills around Mount Rainier the clouds above it gained a fiery tinge, making it seem like the volcano was more awake than it is. The hills lit up with the promise of the next days’ sunny return, echoing a crimson goodbye.

The lands became quieter as the humans wandered off and the marmots went to sleep in their burrows.

We sat in the Rogue and watched the last light fade away as we ate our ham and cheese sandwiches from the tailgate. The stars started to shine, like nothing one could see in the city, filling the skies with dotted potential.

It was sad to head down the mountain, but by that time it was around 10 p.m. on a Sunday and I had to get home at some point in time for work. I drove around 25 mph so as not to hit any dear, which were a pain in my eye-sight all the way back to Seattle.

All but two were content enough to stay on the side of the road with chowing-down on the grassy road edges and the two that weren’t were saved by the Rogue’s ample stopping power. The rest were happy enough to find out what was on the other side of the road with a beep from the horn.

We made a stop at Sonic around midnight to get a sugary injection into our brains prior to hitting the highway home. The largest shake (which lasted me two days) fit very well in the cupholders.

The day ended just as it had started, on the road with the 2015 Nissan Rogue with smiles on our faces, which isn’t bad a small SUV that starts out below $24k.